Spy vs. Spy

ThunderballNovelCoverIn this episode, I examine one of the most infamous and protracted intellectual-property battles in entertainment history.

The war over the rights to James Bond—specifically, the story and script for Thunderball—took over half a century to resolve fully.

Luckily, this podcast isn’t nearly that long.

The conflict between Kevin McClory and Ian Fleming (and Fleming’s rights-holders) raged on for decades, while also creating a very unusual cinematic rivalry that I detail here.

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New York Game Show Disaster 2005

TomSTS08CStorytelling podcast number three delves into an embarrassing (and public) moment from my own past.

I view it differently today than I did then.  But, that’s pretty much how life works, isn’t it?

It’s no Father’s Day tribute or story of a man who saved the world, but, if you’re a current or recovering sports nerd (or you like reveling in my misfortune!!!), you’ll enjoy it.

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Flirting with the End of the World

RussianEarlyWarningSystemIn my second run at a storytelling podcast, I thought I’d shift gears and shoot for something more historical than personal.

I tackle a crucial but probably underreported event that arguably affected just about every single person on the planet.

This is the story of the most important man in the world.

Chances are, you don’t know his name.

But you probably owe him a thank you.

 

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Father’s Day

It was.

It was.

Let’s try something a little different, shall we?

I thought I would take some time to honor my dad by telling the story of my favorite Father’s Day memory.

Instead of writing my usual 2,000-word treatise, I took a different approach, presenting the story in podcast form.  Variety is the spice of life, right?

This should appeal to anyone who was a pre-2004 Red Sox fan.  Or anyone who has a father, I guess.

It’s about 16 minutes long.  It’s worth it.

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Also, for anyone who might enjoy talented people who actually use podcasting to tell stories that rise to the level of art, I would once again recommend you check out Goat Rodeo DC.

 

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Let’s Look at Some Pictures of Puppies

2016 has been a rough year in nearly every way imaginable.

I wish that I could say things are looking up.  Yet, I find my customary optimism waning as even foreseeable events (particularly one in November) have the potential to add to our cycle of misery, to say nothing of events we can’t possibly anticipate.

That’s why I want to talk about puppies today.

!cid__0505000045For the last several years that I lived in Richmond, I was very involved with an organization called Bonnie Blue Rescue.  The pet rescue service found animals from all around the country (mostly the southeast) that needed foster homes.  A lot of them had special needs.  The goal, of course, was to find “forever” homes for these creatures.

Here are pictures of some of the first animals I fostered, a pair of Weimaraner / Lab mixes named Barney and Macy.  Barney showed up first, all eight pounds or so of him.  He looked like his skin was two sizes too big.  His sister showed up a couple of weeks later, and they were inseparable from that point forward.

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Revivalism is Here to Save the Internet

I thought I understood podcasting.  Then I listened to Revivalism: Busk.

The series, from Goat Rodeo DC, a Washington-based audio and podcast network, follows a cross-country road trip that explores a fading but distinctive sliver of American culture: Professional street musicians, also known as “buskers.”

RevivalismLogoThe four episodes released to date cover Asheville (NC), Oxford (MS), and New Orleans (in two parts).  Each one features an intimate look at a small number of artists—sometimes a single musician—making a living as a street performer.

It sometimes isn’t pretty.  But it is always authentic and powerful.

Several things about Revivalism are remarkable.

As you might guess, music is thoroughly woven into each episode.  Often, the music bookends stories told by the artists during interviews, adding implicit meaning to their songs.  You can hear the love, the pain, the triumphs, and the struggles in the strain of every note.  It overflows from their instruments and voices.

Yet, the most compelling element of Revivalism isn’t the music.  It’s the stories.  And, more to the point, the magic is in the expert storytelling of the hosts / interviewers / narrators, Ian Enright and Carlisle Sargent.

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The Jerry Remy Phase-Out Has Begun

A year after NESN’s beloved (and local) play-by-play announcer Don Orsillo got the boot, NESN’s beloved (and local) color commentator Jerry Remy appears headed for the same fate.

This is all speculation on my part, of course.  Actually, let’s upgrade “speculation” to “an educated guess.”  There are certainly some tells.

Recall last year that there was a lot of talk about what would happen to Remy in the wake of the departure of his longtime on-air partner.  NESN was thoroughly non-committal.  Already deflecting heat for Orsillo’s removal in favor of Dave O’Brien, the network eventually decided to put Remy back on the air.

Not Pictured: Subtlety

Not Pictured: Subtlety

However, Remy has endured an unquestionably reduced role.  He’s shared the booth at times, and surrendered it altogether at others.

The primary beneficiary of that reduced role has been Steve Lyons, a very good studio analyst who nevertheless lacks much of Remy’s charm as a color man.

It also doesn’t help that Lyons resembles Better Call Saul‘s Howard Hamlin.

Remy’s demotion-without-calling-it-a-demotion, including his absence on a key road trip to Yankee Stadium in favor of Lyons, might be chalked up as either NESN policy or a health precaution.  After all, NESN has made its announcers take mandatory, in-season breaks of late (which was a bone of contention for Orsillo before he left).

Remy has also battled health problems the last few years that have seen him miss long spans of games intermittently.  If Orsillo were still in the booth, Remy’s shrinking workload could easily be attributed to a genuine concern over his long-term well-being.

Remy02

By August, Remy may be broadcasting from the concession stand.

But context counts for something.  And the biggest tip-off that Lyons is being groomed as Remy’s replacement came during a recent game at Fenway.  Before Boston tangled with the Colorado Rockies, the club honored the 1986 Red Sox.

The NESN highlight package of that ceremony showed a montage of ’86 Sox greats like Jim Rice, Roger Clemens, and Wade Boggs taking the field.

Conspicuous by his presence was Steve Lyons.

For those who may not know or recall, Lyons was technically a member of the 1986 Red Sox.

Until he was traded.

In June.

For Tom Seaver.

While guys like Clemens, Boggs, and Rice were part of the nucleus that powered Boston to the pennant, Lyons was hitting a cool .203 as a part-timer with the White Sox.

The point being that NESN–80 percent of which is owned by the Red Sox–is attempting to “retcon” Lyons as an integral part of team lore.  That way, when he replaces Remy in 2017, the network and the team can imply that the transition is a lateral move: They’re simply swapping out one Red Sox legend for another.

Naturally, the fans won’t buy it.

But that didn’t matter with Orsillo, did it?

If I’m running Fox Sports San Diego, I call Remy in November and tell him to name his price.

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Timely Movie Review: The Force Awakens

We’ve all seen it by now, right?

With this week’s blu-ray / digital release of The Force Awakens indicating that a reasonable time has elapsed, and since nobody else in the world has written anything online about Episode VII, I thought I would scratch out a few notions.

1. I liked it a lot.  It’s a very good movie.  I had the opportunity to revisit the series the week before I saw Episode VII, and I think The Force Awakens ranks only behind Empire Strikes Back and A New Hope for me now.

2. This is the kind of thing only a nerd like me thinks about, but I’m really glad Disney was mentioned solely in the closing credits.  Kudos to them for having enough humility to realize that putting the customary, metaphorical mouse ears on everything would be jarring to longtime fans of the series.

3. I think my favorite character was Poe Dameron, but that might just be because we got the right “dose” of him.

4. I liked Finn, but he seemed to be scared of his own shadow.  He’s definitely one of the more unsure heroes in the entire franchise.

5. On the flipside, I think Rey was a little TOO courageous—not to mention instantly great at everything.   One review humorously analogized her to John Cena, which is surprisingly accurate.  I think Rey’s talents needed to be toned down just a hair, and Finn’s courage needed to be bumped up just a bit.

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Let’s All Make Fun of Tom’s Brackets (2016 Edition)

I don’t even watch college basketball at this point.

ncaa-logoThe closest I’ll get is taking in the competitive portion of a Richmond / VCU game.  Beyond checking a Spider box score now and then, or watching some amazing buzzer-beater that ESPN retweets, I’m out until March.

It should come as no surprise, then, that my March Madness brackets this year will be undoubtedly, irrefutably, unquestionably horrible.

What may come as a surprise is the fact that I still maintain the now-inexplicable practice of filling out (and paying for!) multiple brackets to enter in my friend’s pool every year.  Because why not throw worse money after bad?

Here they are:
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Crossroads for the GOP; WWE

TrumpMcMahonThe GOP has a problem.

The WWE has a problem.

It’s the same problem.

With WrestleMania 32 taking place in Dallas in just a few weeks, the WWE finds itself in what has become familiar territory in recent years: Its biggest show is saddled with a card that isn’t to the liking of much of its fanbase.

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